Plans for Albert Hotel will value site

By LAWRENCE GULLERY

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The new owner of the Albert Hotel believes the site can be redeveloped to help the transformation of Hastings' east end while still showing respect for the building's historic value which stretches back more than 100 years.

Entrepreneur Michael Whittaker this week confirmed he had bought the hotel and released plans to develop the site into a park on the high profile corner of Heretaunga St East and Karamu Rd.

"So far the feedback I've got has been really positive with most people keen to see something happen to the hotel as it's been sitting there for a long time.

"The proposed plans we've put out seem to resonate with a lot of people and could make a lot of difference to that part of Heretaunga St, helping with the transformation of that area which is already under way."

The inner city park could be called Albert Square and include places to eat, gardens and trees, and have a European-type influence.

"I think like a lot of people with an interest in property, I had been watching the Albert for a number of years and looked at plans to develop it in its existing form.

"We realised quickly that it wasn't going to be the case, so we had to look outside the square to see what we could do that would also serve justice to its location and heritage."

The Albert Hotel has a Category 2 listing under the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. If the building was redeveloped the listing guaranteed the building's facade would remain.

Mr Whittaker said he wanted to work closely with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. "We plan to put forward ways it could be worked through and at the end of the day all parties need to be pragmatic. But I would say the building's current state is not healthy."

Mr Whittaker said he did not own any other buildings in the CBD but recently bought Te Mata Mushrooms in Havelock North and planned to expand the business.

"We plan for the farm to continue the 45-year legacy that has begun to provide the best quality mushrooms in New Zealand. We employ about 110 people and this is very much a good news story about a Hawke's Bay family buying a local business from another Hawke's Bay family."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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